I'm pleased to announce a whole new method for cruising the streets: Street View via search. In the past, a search of a specific location in Maps yielded a placemark on its location and a pop-up balloon containing its address. Starting today, the balloon will also display a thumbnail preview of the panoramic image for locations where Street View is available. Just click on the thumbnail or the "Street View" link under it to display the location in full view.

Street View links really come in handy if you're searching for a local business. Let's say you're not quite sure where to eat. Searching "pizza place near 40 Market St., San Francisco, CA," for example, will yield many results. Now you'll see a pop-up balloon containing a Street View link for each result so you can actually see which one looks best! And don't forget to scope out which pizza place has the most convenient parking.

Personally, I'm excited to have the addition of this feature as the holiday season kicks off. Holiday planning can be stressful, as everyone knows, and we're hoping this tool will help ease some of those holiday woes.

And speaking of the holidays, the Maps team here at Google has already received the best gift of all: Street View's spot on Time's "Best Inventions of 2007" list!